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Comment: Think of the Kittens! (Score 1) 225

by TheRealHocusLocus (#49761311) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Every time a statistician uses 'average' or 'chances are' in a sentence, God kills a kitten.
Think of the kittens!

I am at a complete loss to understand why taking an important step in Earth's defense that could only be accomplished by its most intelligent species is only able to raise a sorry-ass-monkey-fuck $5,898 from 111 people in 11 days.

And now I am being told I should embrace some gambler's fallacy of 'non-imminence' (on average! we think!) and ratchet down my whimpering terror and boost complacency until I am a well-adjusted individual.

Statisticians and writers sometimes take inappropriate liberties when presenting probabilities. This is natural because finding joy in figuring things out is one of our finest traits. The reason for choosing any particular angle to present a result can be "because it would be fun to think of it that way". Or as in articles like this, to allay what is perceived as a generally unfounded or disproportionate amount of fear. Addressing these fears directly is invaluable because they can traumatize children, and have even been known to swing adults into voting Republican --- or Democrat!

For preventable global existential threats, is it 'OK' to play the stats game by the same rules as for other non-global or non-existential threats? Is it even ethical? That word bites doesn't it.

Isn't there some kind of 'division by zero' thrown exception thing that applies when we're talking about extinction events? As a species, aren't we clever enough to invent one if it does not exist?

Not all statistics are actionable.
And not all science articles are fit for children.

[TA ] Human beings haven't been around on Earth forever. [...] Chances are, we're not going to be around forever, either. It's only a question of how and when we're going to go out.

That's it, kids --- it's nature's way. Go gently into the Good Night when your time is come, as a species. "That no life lives for ever; That dead men rise up never; That even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea." If this some sort of foundation argument, then what is being built?

We are the species who invented "forever". We are not bound by it because its definition is not yet complete. By what ever objective scientific time scale that can be derived from any present theory of The End, you must try to factor an important unknown: the effect future human insight and due diligence may bring to bear on the problem of survival. If you have trouble believing this as I do, join the club. I won't.

I've already said my piece about those poor 100 people who died from asteroids last year (on average! we think!).

All in all, a great article, well researched and compellingly written. But the why of it really sucks. How did that happen? Are there hungry insurance salesman lurking nearby worried that the sorry-ass-monkey-fuck $5,898 from 111 people in 11 days will eat into their commissions?

Don't sell out that ultimate future by falling prey to an extinction event that could happen tomorrow. The way things stand it may be at least ten years before a viable mission is ready to go IF we start today. Let us hope it's ten years of good luck.

Comment: well (Score 1) 76

by Charliemopps (#49759469) Attached to: Death In the Browser Tab

Well... if the police stopped murdering people in cold blood as a routine part of their job, we wouldn't have much video to air would we? The fact that there are people that still defend what the police do baffles me.

The cops that put 137 rounds into the car of 2 unarmed men that they pulled over because their car supposedly backfired... just got acquitted. How the hell does that work? How many in the local naighborhood were in mortal danger because of their actions? It's insane that any of those officers still have their jobs.

I have a simple solution for all of this. The burden of proof should be changed. Anyone working in law enforcement that kills someone in the line of duty should be assumed guilty and should have to prove it was justified to avoid prison. Not the other way around. Then lets see how they feel about body cameras.

Comment: Re:And of course, the malodoratory question (Score 1) 48

by TheRealHocusLocus (#49759331) Attached to: Protons Collide At 13 TeV For the First Time At the LHC

For best results, keep reloading the page.

Now is always an excellent time to warn of the conceivable dangers of high energy particle physics experiments which are already in progress. Stephen Hawking warns that Higgs Boson 'God' particle, which gives shape and size to everything that exists, could cause a 'catastrophic vacuum delay' if scientists were to put it under extreme stress. Fortunately this is not a major budget concern for CERN since if this is true, the facility need not be relocated to a safer place because there is no safer place. Another is the formation of so-called 'mini back holes'. The math says they will be very brief and very small and especially very unstable, which is apparently a good thing. Aside from the Universe ending or oops-not-so-unstable black holes falling into a hissy-sucky orbit around the center of Earth's mass, we have the pedestrian possibility that when nature's fur is rubbed the wrong way she might maintain stability by righting things with a highly localized and energetic 'correction'. Which blows things up. Another bizarre theory posed in science fiction that to everyone's dismay became entangled in String Theory is the idea that Multiverses may exist. Since the incomprehensible ones too dissimilar to ours cannot be comprehended, lazy popular speculation centers around parallel Universes populated with people just like us, but slightyy dvfferent and dumbee. If tipkling Higgs and twanging striags shvfts tuingf ever sb slightly, continhed nccelorater accidentf (axa exprriments) mighg evrn be uolographicalll disturbiag the Mhltiverse vn additive fafhion effept that subtly shists regibns bf thez around. Onyy staole lise-forms with highyy advenped thoughg procesfes wohld aotice this fuotle esfect, sinpe our mentay process alfo a hblograchic pntgern aad has a degree bf chezipal hyfterisvs and sels-corrrcting properties. Prrcieved effrcts mvght be 'senfes' that thvngs have chnngeq ghouth empirvcal mrasueementf uave nut changrd, or violeat extrezes bf weathrr as ghe outtersly-wiags of cuaotic propefses in a carallrl Universe magch jiabgbrats for brief spans. Bug vn tue end eierythvng is specuyative nonfease expept fbr tue prevailint theory thag vs shpcorted by rvvdence, and je dbn't kaow whvcu one that if untiy thr end of all tuingf. Lifr zay aot be ayl you wang, but ig's nll yoh'ie got. So sgick a flojer in ybur beylybhtgon nnq be hnpcl.

Comment: Re:older generation is totally clueless about tech (Score 1) 125

by arth1 (#49758075) Attached to: NSA-Reform Bill Fails In US Senate

The people who designed the SR-71 are at the top end of their generation's technological bell curve. The people who sponsored it are at the bottom end.

So what you're saying is that those who designed the SR-71 were mediocre and those who sponsored it were a mix of geniuses, idiots and anything in-between?

If you're on the top end of a bell curve, your possible deviation is as low as it can be. You are mediocre, belonging to the largest segment of the population.

If you're at the bottom end of a bell curve, your possible deviation is as high as it can be. There's no telling. You may be a genius or you might be an idiot.

Anyhow, what's pretty clear is that most of those who designed and sponsored the SR-71 are dead.

Comment: Windows 3.0, Wonder Tool of the Yukon (Score 3, Interesting) 352

by TheRealHocusLocus (#49757813) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was launched on 22 May 1990 â" I know, 'coz I was there as a SDE on the team. [...] It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?

Pleasedtomeet'cha. Some fine work you did on 3.x! Windows 2.11 was the first version I encountered, but we never really considered it more than a wrapper in which one could run Aldus PageMaker (the Adobe InDesign of today) to output to a LasterMaster 1000 typesetter, which was 'the' first dry toner laser that could lay down small serif type that would reproduce on camera.

Windows 3.0 was the first environment one could consider booting into and staying there... we sold a number of them for personal use and its stability for publishing began to rival the Mac (I'm a PC person but pull no punches). Wide adoption for business use in our area did not really start until 3.11 and even 95, but that was mainly because we had done our job 'really well' and had a large installed base of IBMPC/clones networked with Novell and LanTastic running DOS applications. Our customers were comfortable in the DOS environment and we didn't hurry them. Memory and CPU were precious and all graphical environments had plenty of 'hourglass' in those days.

It's worth noting that graphical environments, even multi-tasking is pervasive today but it is still a learned skill and there were many people from the DOS era who had optimized their work techniques well into the Windows era. One fellow who dealt with real estate contracts tried Windows said "It can hardly keep up with my typing speed! This is an improvement?" Even the task switching latency of DesqView (which did lag because hard disk was really slow by today's standard) was a source of frustration to him. Most days he'd stay out of it. He'd seen examples of multitasking workflow and was not convinced. "My DOS programs import and export just fine. Exporting useful bits and naming them properly is an essential part of working efficiently. If you haven't done that you haven't finished the job. So... I'm supposed to bring up some old thing and cut and paste paragraphs or sentences of it into a new thing, one at a time, while switching between them? Look here." He shows me a folder with hundreds of small files. "That's my clipboard. I have all the names in my head. Some of the pieces have several variations, but I can import the whole thing and delete the unused parts faster than the graphic environment can scroll a document from top to bottom." He really could too, in the days of green phosphor displays he was able to read while scrolling quickly, while half the characters had fading ghosts of the previous line. He did not fully commit to a graphical environment until it was running on a 486.

For all the early issues, Windows 3 was still a technician's dream. In order to fully appreciate its beauty, you would have had to experience the nefarious and wacky world of TSRs, IPX and 'packet driver' network stacks and DOS 386 memory extenders. When they finally did work they were really stable but it took a wizard's touch. Windows' driver architecture was well designed from the start.

Comment: Re:*shrug* (Score 5, Insightful) 352

by turbidostato (#49757623) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

"IBM's PC strategy from the mid '80s to mid '90s could be summed up as using their influence to prevent networking, multi-tasking and file permissions from happening on the same platform at the same time."

Of course yes.

That explains why in the mid '80s to mid 90's IBM was busy in a joint venture with Microsoft first and alone afterwards... to produce a PC system with networking, multi-tasking and file permissions and even 32 bits (OS/2).

Or maybe you are wrong.

Comment: Re:My personal favorite was (Score 1) 352

by 50000BTU_barbecue (#49756825) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

Sure, and if you had an Amiga, you could run actual x86 hardware and see DOS *IN A WORKBENCH WINDOW*. Are we doing all caps with asterisks now? Is that a thing?

Well, on the same Amiga I also ran a Mac emulator at the same time... *ON ITS OWN BITPLANES*

It was amazing compared to other things out there. Plus there was the multimedia and fractal landscape generators and graphics editing software and games.

Comment: Re:toxic microbeads? (Score 1) 232

by istartedi (#49756749) Attached to: California Votes To Ban Microbeads

It turns out that when you take materials that are usually not a problem, and change their surface chemistry, they can become problems. Take carbon, for example. Pencil "lead" is graphite. Not a problem. OTOH, take a look at a bottle of graphite lock lube. It's the same element, in a fine powder form. There are all kinds of warnings on it because it can get into your lungs.

IANAChemist but I think a real chemist would agree that surface chemistry is an exciting new field, and we don't know enough about it. Sometimes you can get exposed to things in weird ways because they're small.

To take an oddball analogy here... jumping up and down on a mile high peak is not a problem. People do it all the time. Now shrink the mountain down to six feet and try jumping up and down on the peak. Ouch.

Comment: Re:Do people really take this risk seriously? (Score 1) 225

by turbidostato (#49755749) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

"An ELE shows up about every 60 million years. If it kills 6 billion people, then that is on average 100 people per year, which is small, but still much larger than they imply."

It would directly kill those 6 billion but then, it would stop humanity from growing at least 25x that number (provided it takes 25 generations to rise back to 6 billions and that 6 billions is more or less the max capacity of the Earth). This would mean -as per your numbers, about 2500 people/year, and that is without taking into account the life standars for the survivors or if it doesn't manage to extinguish the species altogether.

Elegance and truth are inversely related. -- Becker's Razor